Number of holiday travelers down, but roads will remain clogged for Memorial Day weekend

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Local,DC,Transportation,Travel,Eric P. Newcomer,Holidays

Memorial Day weekend in the D.C. area traditionally means cars full of coolers, kids, grandparents and stressed-out parents stuck in traffic and inching their way to the beach. And it's not changing this year, even though fewer people are expected to travel.

Although AAA Mid-Atlantic expects travel to be down about 2 percent overall compared with last year's Memorial Day weekend, only 5,000 fewer drivers are expected to stay off the roads compared with the 2012 holiday.

That leaves 795,000 Washington-area travelers clogging the roads this coming weekend, so 5,000 fewer probably won't save you much of a headache.

Getting around town
Local transit and bus service will change a bit this weekend.
Metro's trains and buses will be running on a Sunday schedule on Memorial Day. Train service will be shut down on portions of the Red and Orange lines for the entire three-day weekend due to track work beginning at 10 p.m. Friday. Go to wmata.com for details.
MARC commuter trains will not run on Memorial Day, but the train service will be shifting service Friday on the Brunswick and Penn lines with either longer trains or slight adjustments to accommodate workers leaving early for the holiday weekend.
VRE commuter trains will not operate on Memorial Day.
- Kytja Weir

"There's nothing wrong with I-95. It is what it is. It's like a restaurant with table[s] and chairs -- you can only fit so many people within the main dinner hours," said Steve Titunik, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Memorial Day weekend will be the main dinner hours, and the entree is a National Weather Service forecast for Ocean City, Md., of partly to mostly sunny with temperatures in the 70s inland and a little cooler on the beach. The water will be about 65 degrees.

As motorists try to escape the city for the beautiful weather, accidents and congestion will inevitably slow traffic.

"Motorists need to use caution when they get to these areas. That means no cellphones and texting and everything else people shouldn't do [while driving], but some do," Titunik said.

Traveling late nights should be easier, though, because local traffic will be lighter.

"I-95 is the major East Coast highway," Titunik said, "and for people in our area, it's like Main Street."

There won't be any lanes closed due to planned construction, Titunik said.

As government employees in the Washington-area cut their budgets after facing an 11-day furlough, nondrivers are expected to be down this weekend.

AAA Mid-Atlantic expects air travel to drop 10.1 percent compared with last year, from 65,106 travelers to 58,500 this year. That represents about 6.6 percent of travelers.

"It's the most expensive, and it's just a real big hassle now," said John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Other travelers, taking buses, boats and trains, are expected to drop by 19 percent, from 24,600 last year to about 20,000 this year.

Still, drivers are expected to make up about 91 percent of the 873,500 total commuters.

"There will be no difference from the gridlock we saw last Memorial Day," Townsend said.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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